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rayban

Those Innocent, Bygone Days!

118 posts in this topic

29 minutes ago, Jlewis said:

I especially agreed that he was over rated when I first watched his movies on TV. Worst performance, in my opinion, is Giant in which he mumbles even more than Marlon Brando. Yet I have appreciated his talent more as time progressed and re-watched his primary trio multiple times. I think his acting in East Of Eden is excellent up until the last act when the script requires him be maudlin in his daddy reconciliation and Julie Harris pretty much has to take over. This is a disappointing aspect to 1950s American cinema always playing safe and requiring a happy resolution before "The End". 

He was very young when he died, so all we can do is speculate how well he would have progressed. Heath Ledger is a good comparison to him. He may well be as equally over rated had he not challenged himself a bit more than his contemporaries with Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight.

I'm not crazy about Dean, either, but I have the opposite assessment of his films: Giant is my favorite (I seem to be one of the few people around here who likes it), and East of Eden is my least favorite. I think he's just terrible in the latter film, an opinion that was cemented when I watched it again in the last year or two. Rebel Without a Cause is an excellent time capsule, but it's rather corny and overblown. I have to admit, though, that Dean may be my least favorite part of Giant

Heath Ledger is easier to assess since he had substantial roles in 18 movies, as well as major roles in three TV series.

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30 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

I'm not crazy about Dean, either, but I have the opposite assessment of his films: Giant is my favorite (I seem to be one of the few people around here who likes it), and East of Eden is my least favorite. I think he's just terrible in the latter film, an opinion that was cemented when I watched it again in the last year or two. Rebel Without a Cause is an excellent time capsule, but it's rather corny and overblown. I have to admit, though, that Dean may be my least favorite part of Giant

Heath Ledger is easier to assess since he had substantial roles in 18 movies, as well as major roles in three TV series.

Overblown is the word I use for GIANT. It doesn't hold up well in my opinion. I don't buy Dean as a southerner. And Dean's old age make-up and old age acting in the later sequences come across as phony. It was not a good way for him to end his movie career.

I don't think he's believable as a high school youth in REBEL. He's too old to play that character. 

EAST OF EDEN is the only one of his films where he seems to be cast correctly. Julie Harris helps pull a decent performance from him in the scenes where it counts. I think too much has been made of his acting opposite Raymond Massey. Clearly Massey is the better actor. Just like Jo Van Fleet is the better performer in his scenes with her.

TCM showed some of his live TV work a few years ago. And honestly, I didn't think he was very good in those either. He was very unformed, very undeveloped. He almost mimics instead of acts. He's mimicking what he thinks Brando or the other method actors would do.

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4 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Overblown is the word I use for GIANT. It doesn't hold up well in my opinion. I don't buy Dean as a southerner. And Dean's old age make-up and old age acting in the later sequences come across as phony. It was not a good way for him to end his movie career.

I don't think he's believable as a high school youth in REBEL. He's too old to play that character. 

EAST OF EDEN is the only one of his films where he seems to be cast correctly. Julie Harris helps pull a decent performance from him in the scenes where it counts. I think too much has been made of his acting opposite Raymond Massey. Clearly Massey is the better actor. Just like Jo Van Fleet is the better performer in his scenes with her.

TCM showed some of his live TV work a few years ago. And honestly, I didn't think he was very good in those either. He was very unformed, very undeveloped. He almost mimics instead of acts. He's mimicking what he thinks Brando or the other method actors would do.

Yeah, when I hear people speak disparagingly about Method acting, I picture James Dean. I've seen worse, but to me he's the most famous bad Method actor.

Brando is one of my favorite actors (despite the constant abuse he takes around here), but I honestly think Montgomery Clift was the best of that generation, although his peak was short-lived. 

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Just now, LawrenceA said:

Yeah, when I hear people speak disparagingly about Method acting, I picture James Dean. I've seen worse, but to me he's the most famous bad Method actor.

Brando is one of my favorite actors (despite the constant abuse he takes around here), but I honestly think Montgomery Clift was the best of that generation, although his peak was short-lived. 

Yes, Clift infused his method acting with a bit more naturalism. Brando's good not because of his method acting, but in spite of it.

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2 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

I'm not crazy about Dean, either, but I have the opposite assessment of his films: Giant is my favorite (I seem to be one of the few people around here who likes it), and East of Eden is my least favorite. I think he's just terrible in the latter film, an opinion that was cemented when I watched it again in the last year or two. Rebel Without a Cause is an excellent time capsule, but it's rather corny and overblown. I have to admit, though, that Dean may be my least favorite part of Giant

Heath Ledger is easier to assess since he had substantial roles in 18 movies, as well as major roles in three TV series.

Yeah, I know Heath is probably a weaker comparison due to a more prolific output, but I was thinking of his career cut short and being toted as a posthumous legend before his career reached its full potential. Also count me in as another fan of Giant, even if I felt Liz Taylor and Mercedes McCambridge gave better performances in that one.

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2 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Overblown is the word I use for GIANT. It doesn't hold up well in my opinion. I don't buy Dean as a southerner. And Dean's old age make-up and old age acting in the later sequences come across as phony. It was not a good way for him to end his movie career.

I don't think he's believable as a high school youth in REBEL. He's too old to play that character. 

EAST OF EDEN is the only one of his films where he seems to be cast correctly. Julie Harris helps pull a decent performance from him in the scenes where it counts. I think too much has been made of his acting opposite Raymond Massey. Clearly Massey is the better actor. Just like Jo Van Fleet is the better performer in his scenes with her.

TCM showed some of his live TV work a few years ago. And honestly, I didn't think he was very good in those either. He was very unformed, very undeveloped. He almost mimics instead of acts. He's mimicking what he thinks Brando or the other method actors would do.

Overblown explains Giant correctly but that is exactly why I enjoy it so much and have sat through it so many times in the past four decades. Reminds me of an early version of Dallas. Actually Liz Taylor is even less convincing than James Dean as she "ages" with fake gray hair and make-up, but I truly luv her so unconditionally in that movie since she is oh so luvable. Although Rock Hudson may not exactly "wow" here like he would in his more demanding later performances such as Seconds, he still gives us a taste of his future straight-man adventures with equally rambunctious Doris Day. Carroll Baker is also nice and sultry in her small scenes wooing Jimmy, a foretaste of Baby Doll. There is so much to luv in Giant, but... as you know... I have peculiar tastes.

Oddly Rebel is the movie I try the hardest to like and Natalie Wood makes it easy for me on some levels. All of the women in Dean's films are quite energized. I do agree with Lawrence that it is more a time capsule piece and you enjoy it more for nostalgia.

I've always liked Raymond Massey, although I think he was so much better in his earlier masterpieces (Things To Come, Abe Lincoln In Illinois, A Matter Of Life And Death, among others). Don't think he is better or worse than Jimmy in East Of Eden except that I keep thinking of his earlier performances when watching him. He isn't much of a Charles Laughton here stretching himself prior to the stroke scene.

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9 minutes ago, Jlewis said:

Overblown explains Giant correctly but that is exactly why I enjoy it so much and have sat through it so many times in the past four decades. Reminds me of an early version of Dallas. Actually Liz Taylor is even less convincing than James Dean as she "ages" with fake gray hair and make-up, but I truly luv her so unconditionally in that movie since she is oh so luvable. Although Rock Hudson may not exactly "wow" here like he would in his more demanding later performances such as Seconds, he still gives us a taste of his future straight-man adventures with equally rambunctious Doris Day. Carroll Baker is also nice and sultry in her small scenes wooing Jimmy, a foretaste of Baby Doll. There is so much to luv in Giant, but... as you know... I have peculiar tastes.

Oddly Rebel is the movie I try the hardest to like and Natalie Wood makes it easy for me on some levels. All of the women in Dean's films are quite energized. I do agree with Lawrence that it is more a time capsule piece and you enjoy it more for nostalgia.

I've always liked Raymond Massey, although I think he was so much better in his earlier masterpieces (Things To Come, Abe Lincoln In Illinois, A Matter Of Life And Death, among others). Don't think he is better or worse than Jimmy in East Of Eden except that I keep thinking of his earlier performances when watching him. He isn't much of a Charles Laughton here stretching himself prior to the stroke scene.

GIANT was a film introduced to me and my classmates by Professor Drew Casper at USC. So my first experience was seeing it on a large screen in a campus auditorium. I still remember how I felt when I first watched it. And part of that memory was it felt too long. I actually preferred the east coast sequence at the beginning over the rest of the film. Liz Taylor made the greatest impression on all of us watching GIANT that evening. In our breakout sessions with the T.A., everyone seemed to focus on her performance and her luminosity. Not really on the two leading men. 

REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE was a film I remember seeing at a special screening at a library in West Hollywood. Each week we'd watch and discuss a film the library director had selected. I don't think I'd seen it before, not even in film school. I recall everyone being mesmerized by Dean's coolness. Not really his acting, the character he was playing or the film itself, but his persona. And I know in our discussion we talked about 50s fads, how dated the style of his blue jeans seemed in that movie, his use of the comb, his hair, basically his image as a 50s youth, which was stuck in that time and did not transcend the film. But his coolness, his attitude, transcended the time in which the film was made. In fact it seemed to exist outside the film in a way.

One thing that resonated with me in REBEL and still does is the sequence at Griffith Park. I remember going there with a church youth group. We went into the observatory one evening to look at the stars. It felt timeless. And when I saw the observatory scenes in the movie, that place seemed even more timeless because not much about it had changed from when REBEL was filmed to when I had gone there. 

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I too visited Griffith once, but the Observatory was temporarily closed for maintenance. Also visited Warner's in Burbank the same day and saw the buildings where some of the indoor scenes would have been shot. Yeah... Rebel was very much on my mind then.

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Because of our discussion here today I think I can say my appreciation of James Dean the star has deepened but my view of James Dean the actor is less than it was. Does that make sense? I don't respect him as an actor. 

It's kind of a strange thing to reconcile. Star on one side, actor on the other side. He doesn't connect for me, or come together for me as a total film artist should. But it's where I am in my evaluation of him.

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Dean will be forever young. We can only speculate what kind of career he would have had if he had lived- would he have been a quick fade out or ended up in a tv cop show?  He seemed to be fearless when it came to his sexuality- how would that have evolved in the 1960's?  Does anyone know what movie was he suppose to do after "Giant"? 

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1 hour ago, Jlewis said:

I too visited Griffith once, but the Observatory was temporarily closed for maintenance. Also visited Warner's in Burbank the same day and saw the buildings where some of the indoor scenes would have been shot. Yeah... Rebel was very much on my mind then.

Griffith Observatory is a gorgeous building; a real temple to science and it has a great view of the Hollywood sign

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Ledger's tragic death is a major loss to cinema. He was an actor and a star and should have won the Oscar for "Brokeback Mountain"

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19 minutes ago, jaragon said:

Dean will be forever young. We can only speculate what kind of career he would have had if he had lived- would he have been a quick fade out or ended up in a tv cop show?  He seemed to be fearless when it came to his sexuality- how would that have evolved in the 1960's?  Does anyone know what movie was he suppose to do after "Giant"? 

"Somebody Up There Likes Me".

James Dean was a self-conscious and self-indulgent actor who thought that he was blessed with greatness.

He actually spent very little time at The Actor's Studio.
 

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1 hour ago, jaragon said:

Dean will be forever young. We can only speculate what kind of career he would have had if he had lived- would he have been a quick fade out or ended up in a tv cop show?  He seemed to be fearless when it came to his sexuality- how would that have evolved in the 1960's?  Does anyone know what movie was he suppose to do after "Giant"? 

Ray mentioned SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME. He was also supposed to make THE LEFT HANDED GUN. As we know both those films were done by Paul Newman.

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2 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Because of our discussion here today I think I can say my appreciation of James Dean the star has deepened but my view of James Dean the actor is less than it was. Does that make sense? I don't respect him as an actor. 

It's kind of a strange thing to reconcile. Star on one side, actor on the other side. He doesn't connect for me, or come together for me as a total film artist should. But it's where I am in my evaluation of him.

Not strange. The illusion doesn't match the reality.

Marilyn Monroe wasn't that great of an actress either, despite how much I love her in Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot. She tried to be a "method" performer too but Bus Stop was pretty broad and over the top. Probably the most famous image of her is the flying dress scene in The Seven Year Itch, which may be her most boring movie apart from that scene. She was great at displaying emotional depth and maternal affection though, which is why she is still greatly loved.

Yet she and Jimmy dominate 20th century pop culture as products of that great decade of empty headed consumerism: the 1950s. Acting skills were less important than what Clara Bow equally displayed back in an earlier decade of empty headed consumerism, the 1920s... "IT" appeal. Their images were manufactured across the globe like Mickey Mouse and Coca Cola because of what they represent as illusions.

One interesting aspect about Dean was his strong curiosity for cameramen and directors. I could potentially see him becoming or attempting to become a future Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty or Robert Redford taking on directing. However, like Monroe, he wasn't at all disciplined. Both had very scattered and mercurial personalities that sometimes stressed the production crews.

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34 minutes ago, Jlewis said:

One interesting aspect about Dean was his strong curiosity for cameramen and directors. I could potentially see him becoming or attempting to become a future Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty or Robert Redford taking on directing.

Maybe he would have gone in that direction.

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Rogers Brackett's personal collection of nude photos of his lover, James Dean, was unfortunately lost by Rogers Brackett himself and its' whereabouts are still being searched for today.

However, much later, James Dean did do nude sessions for private collectors - although, to this day, these photos have not surfaced to anyone's knowledge.

He thought that he was God's gift to gay men. 

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11 minutes ago, rayban said:

Rogers Brackett's personal collection of nude photos of his lover, James Dean, was unfortunately lost by Rogers Brackett himself and its' whereabouts are still being searched for today.

However, much later, James Dean did do nude sessions for private collectors - although, to this day, these photos have not surfaced to anyone's knowledge.

He thought that he was God's gift to gay men. 

Interesting. The one I find more interesting from the 50s is Tom Pittman. He also had a short career and died in a car crash, but he was a very good actor. I saw him recently in an episode of Tales of Wells Fargo and thought he gave an impressive performance. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Pittman

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